Yankees demote Garcia to bullpen

NEW YORK — Struggling Yankees starter Freddy Garcia is going to the bullpen.

Garcia was shifted to a relief role Sunday, a day after he gave up six runs to the Detroit Tigers in 1 2-3 innings. The outing boosted his ERA to 12.51.

I’m not surprised,” Garcia said. “You play here in New York, they expect to pitch good. … It’s not like they wait for you to be good.”

Sitting in front of his locker in a near empty clubhouse, Garcia shrugged his shoulders and fidgeted in his chair, clearly exasperated with his situation.

Rewarded with a $4 million, one-year contract after going 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA last season for New York, Garcia has been the worst of a shaky rotation that was thought to be a strength for the Yankees heading into the season.

But offseason acquisition Michael Pineda started the season on the disabled list and needs season-ending shoulder surgery. And Phil Hughes and Garcia have been terrible. Hughes is 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA.

Yankees starters, through Saturday, have a 6.37 ERA, 29th in majors, according to STATS LLC. Minnesota is the only team that’s worse with a 7.01 ERA.

Garcia (0-2) has made only two relief appearances in 333 career games, including one for New York last season. He doesn’t know what his role in the bullpen will be, but it could be as a long reliever.

“Another part of my life I have to deal with,” he said. “Whenever I have to pitch I’ll pitch.”

After the Yankees beat Detroit 6-2 Sunday, manager Joe Girardi said rookie David Phelps would take Garcia’s place in the rotation.

“I’m the one that’s been built up to throw some innings,” Phelps said before he knew he was definitely going to start.

Said Girardi: “There’s nothing that tells me he can’t be a major league starter.”

Phelps has earned Girardi’s trust with several solid outings this year. He has a 3.57 ERA in 17 2-3 innings over six appearances. He pitched three scoreless innings Saturday.

With Andy Pettitte working his way back after a one-year retirement, the Yankees might need only one spot start.

Garcia’s next turn in the rotation comes on May 3. Then the team has a day off May 7 which could allow the team to skip the No. 5 spot until Pettitte is ready.

Pettitte will make a start for Class A Tampa on Monday and may need one or two more starts before he is ready to join the rotation.

To help the taxed bullpen, the Yankees called up right-hander D.J. Mitchell from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes/Barre and optioned Cody Eppley to their top minor league club. Eppley pitched three innings Saturday.

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